The collection

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
Museum and gallery staff put their favourite artefacts on display

Dorchester's Dinosaur Museum is Britain's only museum devoted solely to dinosaurs and the fascinating world they inhabited. Fossils, skeletons, and life-size reconstructions are combined with modern tech-nology - audio-visual equip-ment, computers and CD-Rom displays.

The most celebrated exhibits in the museum are the life-size dinosaur reconstructions: meet-eating Tyrannosaurus rex; stegosaurus with its strangely shaped ridge of plates; corythosaurus (affectionately known as "Dina") and triceratops.

This year is the 175th anniversary of the first scientific naming of a dinosaur. The beast in question was called megalosaurus, which means "great lizard" and the name was coined by the Rev William Buckland, who discovered a partial skeleton in Oxfordshire in 1824.

The museum's own megalosaurus skeleton stands above a set of fossilised footprints made by the same species 100 million years ago. The unique imprints, tracks from two dinosaurs, were discovered in fossil-rich Dorset. The museum also contains what experts believe is a fossilised impression of a mark made by one of the dinosaurs dragging its tail as it walked.

The megalosaurus skeleton itself comes from the Isle of Wight which is, geologically, an extension of Dorset. Megalosaurus was a large, meat-eating dinosaur (about 9m long), with sharp, saw-edged teeth and large curved claws.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, the museum is adding a further Jurassic scene to its displays. This will feature a life-size reconstruction of megalosaurus attacking a scelidosaurus - an event that could have taken place in Dorset.

Shortly after Buckland's first scientific naming of a dinosaur, others followed, but not until 1841 did Sir Richard Owen hit upon the idea of grouping the extinct reptiles together and calling them "dinosaurs" or "terrible lizards". As more remains were unearthed, people became fascinated by prehistoric creatures. This fascination shows no sign of withering and world of the terrible lizards continues to enthral us today.

Tim Batty is curator of the Dinosaur Museum, Icen Way, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1EW. Tel: 01305 269880

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